Archive for March, 2015

On Point with Melissa Barak

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Photo credit: Bobby Quillard

As one of the most sought after dancers turned choreographers in the United States, Melissa Barak has built an empire cultivating relationships with her audiences via ballet through her cutting-edge dance company, Barak Ballet. Having being featured in such publications as Los Angeles Times Magazine and DANCE Magazine, Barak is continuing to foster the growth of her company by showcasing her talents on February 6th-7th 2015 at The Broad Stage in Los Angeles for 2 shows.

Drawn in to the art of dance at 8 years old, Barak began her career in Los Angeles learning from the illustrious Yvonne Mounsey at the Westside School of Ballet. Her passion eventually took her to New York to study at the School of American Ballet and eventually earned her a spot at the New York City Ballet where she remained for the next 9 years and became known for her linear purity, relentless work ethic, and musicality.It was there that she began exploring her choreographic talents and at the unprecedented age of 21, with her consistently outstanding performances allowed her to be commissioned for an original work for the company, making her the youngest choreographer in New York City Ballet history. Upon realizing her talent for choreography, Barak continued creating new works for various companies including the American Repertory Ballet, Sacramento Ballet, and Los Angeles Ballet, as well as luminaries such as Misty Copeland, Benjamin Millipied (Black Swan) and principle NYCB dancers Sara Mearns, Tiler Peck, and Robert Fairchild. With this unparalleled success, Barak felt it was time to branch out on her own to build a dance company that flourishes from personal philosophies deeply rooted in true collaboration, individuality and artistic maturity. In 2013, she founded Barak Ballet and has made its mission to envision, develop and perform contemporary dance interpretations for the modern age.

When she’s not busy performing and creating visual art, Melissa can be found volunteering for various animal rights groups and playing with her cat, which she rescued herself while living in New York as a dancer. 

It was such a pleasure to sit down and chat with Melissa. Her incredible drive and passion for bringing emotion alive on stage is irresistible. Melissa puts her heart and soul into creating artistry through her dancers and work. I am so happy to be able to share this interview with you, a true artist and inspiration in my eyes………..

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Photo Credit: Kyle Froman

 

 

BB411~ Has dance always been a part of your life, how did that all come to be?

MB~ It started as a little girl dancing in the living room for my mom. My sister and I would partner together and do shows for my mother and grandmother. My mother watched me dance around the house and noticed I had talent (as every mother does) and got me into ballet classes at the age of 4. I actually didn’t love ballet at the beginning, I found it kind of boring and stopped after a year. At age 6 after continuing to dance around the house, my mom decided to put me back in and it stuck ever since! It was when I was 8 and enrolled in Westside School of Ballet in Santa Monica that things got much more serious.

BB411~ Who did you look up to growing up or inspire to be?

MB~ When I was young at Westside, I was 8/9 years old and very impressionable and looked up to the advanced dancers. Many of them went on to serious companies. They made an impression on me and gave me goals for something to work towards. As I got older and was becoming more aware at the ballet world at large, I looked up to Darci Kistler. I saw Julie Kent perform live and she has always been someone I look up to as well. Both women are fantastic.

BB411~ What do you love most about dance and being a choreographer?

MB~ As a dancer- the performance aspect, performing for an audience (live) with the music and being in a role that you love with choreography that really fits you. It takes you to a spiritual place. It’s a very freeing, quite, euphoric place. Dancing provides that euphoria, a real sort of happiness, being one with yourself and getting lost in the music. Choreography is fulfilling but in a different way. I’m very much into competition, my personality is about making sense out of disorder, organizing. I get fulfillment out of creating pictures, images, and an environment on stage using music that I love. What motivated me to move as a dancer, music motivates me to create as a choreographer. To sit back and watch it all come to life on stage is an accomplishment, a real joy.

BB411~ What is the greatest lesson dance has taught you?

MB~ 1. A determined mindset. You need to be persistent, there’s no such thing as giving up. The constant reach for the betterment of your artistry/technique. 2. Practicing patience. Some people rise slowly, others dancers rise more quickly, some have strengths that others don’t. It’s really about being persistent, determined, but also being patient with yourself. Excepting who you are, your abilities and limitations.

BB411~ Living in NYC and studying at the New York City Ballet, you became the youngest choreographer. What was that experience like?

MB~ It was awesome and it was scary. It was incredibly cool, a huge honour and a sense of accomplishment for sure. But being so young I didn’t quite feel ready for all of that attention and to have my work on one of the biggest stages in the world. Lincoln Center (are you kidding), it was a lot of pressure on somebody who wasn’t even quite sure what kind of choreographer she was. I wouldn’t change anything though, it forced me to be brave at a young age and take chances. I felt torn as I still very much wanted to dance but the focus was on my choreography from my director. I am grateful to him for giving me my choreography career.

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BB411~ How was your company The Barak Ballet born?

MB~ It was a few years ago that my time with Los Angeles Ballet was coming to an end. And I was at a place in my life that I was deciding what I wanted to do; join another company, audition, or get into something completely different (interior design has always interested me). But then I had been playing with the idea of starting my own company. Out of all the things I was considering getting into, that really inspired me. It was always in the back of my mind that I wanted to start a company of my own. I had thought about it in previous years, coming back to LA and creating a company I grew up in. It was at that time, my dance career had come to an end, and it was at that time that I considered such a move. It just seemed to make sense, it just felt right. As soon as I started putting pen to paper and writing out my mission statement, it all started exciting me. It grew from an idea to people jumping on board. It’s something that inspired me and still inspires me.

BB411~ You have worked with some incredible dancers Misty Copeland, Benjamin Millipied (Black Swan) and principle NYCB dancers Sara Mearns, Tiler Peck, and Robert Fairchild. Who have you not worked with but is on the top of your list?

MB~ Maria Kochetkova is incredible from San Francisco ballet. Actually San Francisco Ballet has a lot of incredible dancers I’d like to work with; Sofiane Sylve, Yuan Yuan Tan, there all exceptional! Wendy Wayland, she’s just an amazing, amazing artist. Also she loves to work with choreographers and would look good in anything created.

BB411~ What advice do you give for young ballerinas or people with a passion for dance that are starting out?

MB~ I’d tell them to just focus on themselves, try not to look around and see how quickly other dancers are moving forward in their progress. Dancers grow at various rates and it’s super important to not compare yourself to others. You look, you watch, and you want to learn from other dancers but you don’t want to directly compare yourself. Because again, you could have strengths they don’t have and you don’t want to diminish what you have. You have to stay focused, better yourself, focus on improving, and try not to compare cause that can really destroy you.

BB411~ How did your parents influence the person you are today?

MB~ My Mom always believed in me and boosted my confidence. She always tried to be very honest and subjective with me. Hearing her encouragement throughout the years really gave me a sense that I had something special.

BB411~ What do you do to stay fit and healthy?

MB~ I try to eat super healthy and well-rounded. I don’t deprive myself of anything, I eat chocolate, fruits, vegetables, I enjoy eating sensible and in moderation. I stay away from anything processed and eat organic as much as possible. I enjoy pilates, I’m really lucky I have my best friend Andie Hecker who owns a pilates studio, Ballet Bodies in LA. I stays active through pilates, hiking and gyrokinesis, which is a form of yoga, tai chi, gymnastics, and dance. I enjoy activities that are low impact.

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Photo credit: Bobby Quillard

 

BB411~ Describe your style?

MB~ If I go out, I would say city-urban chic, east meets west coast sort of vibe. During the day, I’d say California girl.

BB411~ Top 3 things every woman should have in her wardrobe?

MB~ Nice blazer, hot pair of jeans (that make your booty look good and legs look long) and a pair of nude heels.

BB411~ Bare feet, socks or stilettoes?

MB~ Ballet Slippers

BB411~ What does the word “beauty” mean to you?

MB~ Confidence, Graciousness and Compassion define beauty.

BB411~ What inspires you personally and professionally?

MB~ I get inspired by people’s innovation. So professionally, If I’m observing (especially in terms of choreography), I loving seeing what can be created and done. I love the book that came out on Steve Jobs; he was this guy that had an idea and who just had a knack for business, marketing and product that people wanted. Innovation has really inspired me, other people’s, whether it be artistic, technological, scientific, I find that really cool.

BB411~ Are you involved in any charities that are close to your heart?

MB~ I support various animal wellness charities. My schedule doesn’t allow me a lot of free time, but when I can, I try to attend events that support great causes. Animal welfare, the prevention of animal cruelty are the causes very close to my heart.

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Photo credit: Bobby Quillard

 

BB411~ What is your skin care regime?

MB~ I’m an EPICURE girl all the way. I use their facial wash, they have this mask and peel I’m obsessed with. I love argan oil and use Avene sunscreen every day.

BB411~ What are your go to hair products?

MB~ Right now I’m using Pantene, it adds extra moisture to my hair. I like to change my hair products regularly.

BB411~ #1 beauty product you could not live without?

MB~ Vaseline, I use it on my lips, cuticles and sometimes as an eye moisturizer. Vaseline is universal and inexpensive.

BB411~ Do any certain scents remind you of your childhood?

MB~ The smell of freshly cut grass, brings me back to being younger. Also the smell of rose, there use to be a store in a mall that was decorated all in pink (girlie) and whenever I smell rose I think of that store. It was one of my favourites.

BB411~ What is your favorite fragrance?

MB~ My scent that I wear is Narcotic V. by Nasomatto. I love gardenia and tuberose is really beautiful. If I want to relax, lavender is great and I’m really into Cire Trudon candles.

BB411~ 3 words that best describe you?

MB~ Loyal, Genuine and Honest!

BB411~ Fun fact that people may not know about you?

MB~ I love the saxophone. I have also always loved the sound of the accordion and bagpipe as instruments too.

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Photo credit: Bobby Quillard

 

BB411~ If you could tell your younger self something you have learned and know now what would it be?

MB~ Not to give up, you have to work your ass off. Nothing comes easy (laughs).

BB411~ Favorite quote?

MB~ Favourite quote I have on my desktop is by Woody Allen “If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.”

BB411~ Favorite food?

MB~ Pizza & Dark Chocolate

BB411~ Favourite colour?

MB~ I know it’s technically not a colour, but I like black.

BB411~ What are the key points to being a good role model?

MB~ Being supportive and honest.

BB411~ #1 thing you want to cross off your bucket list?

MB~ I’d like to go on a safari in Tanzania (Greek Islands is a close second)

BB411~ Describe your perfect day (when you have down time)?

MB~ Start the day with a good, healthy breakfast, pack up a small bag of my beauty essentials and head to Olympic Spa in Korea town, LA. It’s a stay cation, filled with pools, saunas and their milk and honey body smoothie treatment. They also have this warm floor that you can have a nap on after your treatment. It’s pretty Kick-Ass!

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Photo credit: Bobby Quillard

 

BB411~ What has been your biggest Aha Moment so far in life?

MB~ Take with a grain of salt anything a man tells you, don’t take it to heart!

BB411~ What advice would you give entrepreneurs starting out that are following their dreams?

MB~ Be determined, work hard and you have to make sure it’s something you are going to enjoy putting a lot of time into. As long as you know this is a passion of yours, you’re going to enjoy the hard work. Certainly the bumps in the road can’t get you down. You have to be able to weather any storm that comes.

BB411~ Where do you see yourself in 1 year, 5 years and 10 years?

MB~ When I was younger I use to set goals, but now I live day by day. Right now my focus is on ballet of course and in 5 years I’d love to see my company continuing to grow with great dancers, opportunities, exciting audiences around the world by then and being happy (that’s the biggest, most important thing). One, five and ten years all I really want is to feel fulfilled and happy. And what ever way that happens, whether I’m married, single, Barak ballet’s a success or I move to Portland Oregon, I just want to feel fulfilled!

BB411~ When I say the words #lovethis, what is the first thing that comes to mind?

MB~ Funny Cat videos on You Tube, I’m a fan

To keep up to date with Melissa and Barak Ballet: Follow on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. You can also follow Melissa personally on Her Instagram Account.

Remember to say you heard it here

Much Love,
Beauty Buzz 411

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Natalia Anja: Global Degree

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Photo Credit: Britney Gill

 

Natalia Anja is a freelance photographer based out of beautiful Vancouver, BC, Canada. Natalia was born in Poland and moved to Greece, eventually settling down in Vancouver, her father documented their family’s adventure with a film and video camera. She’s followed in her dad’s footsteps by capturing and cherishing memories through a lens.

While working for a company called ‘The Buried Life’ (A project that encourages people to check off their bucket list items.) ‘The Buried Life’ inspired Natalia to pursue her passion as a Professional Photographer.

The love she has for photography stems from the incredible feeling of capturing unforgettable moments. She takes pride in connecting with people in a genuine caring way, allowing them to feel comfortable and at ease in front of the camera. “Always smiling and hoping I can bring a smile to the faces of everyone I meet.”

Eager to learn more and strongly believing that images are very powerful; Natalia’s goal is to capture life-changing photographs! Helping others that are less fortunate has always been Natalia’s greatest passion and she would love to use her camera and experiences to make a positive difference in society.

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Photo Credit: Natalia Anja

I have known Natalia for some time and could not be happier for this incredible opportunity she is about to take on. It takes a lot of courage to just drop everything, pack your bag, take a risk and go outside your comfort zone. See, Natalia is a “Gypsy Soul” and the travel-bug flutters inside her. She has this free spirit and her heart has always longed for beautiful adventure. I have had the opportunity to shoot with Natalia and she has some mad talent, she has this way of making you feel so comfortable in front of the lens. From knowing Natalia, I can honestly say that the Global Degree guys have landed the jackpot on having this beauty come on board. Not only is she super funny and gorgeous, she is down-to-earth, gold hearted and truly loves connecting and seeing the good in people. This little gem is going to be missed here at home (by so many I’m sure), but what’s in store for this “Wild Child” is only the beginning to amazing things. What I love most about interviewing is showcasing people who just want to do good, make a difference in this world, and this girl represents all that and so much more. I am grateful to call Natalia a friend and it warms my heart to share this interview with you………….

BB411~ When did you know you wanted to become a photographer, how did it come to be?

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Photo Credit: Natalia Anja Instagram

NA~ When I lived in Italy and I couldn’t find a job because of the language barrier, I spent a lot of time alone…exploring with my camera and fell in love with photography. I took a correspondence course through the New York Institute of Photography. I was always quite fearful of pursuing it and one day two years ago I threw myself into it and I’m so happy I did.

BB411~ What do you love most about photography?

 

NA~ The connection. You can look at a photo and there’s so much more than just an image. It’s a connection between people, a place, or a feeling and there’s always a story. Whether it is as simple as comfort or discomfort, happiness or vulnerability.

BB411~ First off, Congrats on the new adventure you are about to embark on with Global Degree. What inspired you to apply for the contest?

NA~ Thank you! As soon as I heard about the contest, I didn’t think twice about applying. I called my friend Dan Rizzuto, told him I needed to make a short video and without skipping a beat he said “when are we shooting it?” I’ve always loved traveling, exploring and stepping outside of my comfort zone. Global Degree is that in a nut shell.

BB411~ Tell us what it means to get your “Global Degree”?

NA~ Each country is a ‘course’ and once you complete every course – step foot into every country (193 UN Nations) you achieve your Global Degree.

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Photo Credit: Natalia Anja Instagram

BB411~ What are you most excited about and what do you hope to gain from this experience?

NA~ I’m most excited about the unknown, to me there’s something thrilling about that. I don’t know what to expect, I’m excited to see the world with fresh eyes, meet new people, experience different cultures and grow as a person. I’m excited to photograph every country and make a series of photo books each year. The book will highlight each country I explore. I will showcase a landscape, a portrait of a local, fashion, food and animals of each country. Proceeds of each book will go to a charity of choice.

BB411~ Do you have any fears surrounding your upcoming travels?

NA~ Managing packing 7 months of my life into 1 backpack. Other than that, no. For some reason a lot of people feel inclined to only tell me travel horror stories but I’m going in with an open and optimistic mind.

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Photo Credit: Global Degree

BB411~ What do you love most about your brothers from Global Degree Michael and Alex?

NA~ Since my initial meeting with both of them there was a natural, comfortable connection. They’re complete goofballs which I love. Since day one they have treated me like a little sister. They make me laugh a lot, make fun of me like siblings do, but are very protective and caring as well.

BB411~ Out of all the places you will visit, which is the one you are most looking forward to and why?

NA~ After researching the Asian countries we’re about to visit, it’s so hard to pick one. There were quite a few I have never even heard of. I think I’m most excited for India, Sri Lanka and Papua New Guinea.

BB411~ What has photography taught you as a person?

NA~ That having a ‘job’ that you’re passionate about will make you a very happy, fulfilled person.

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Photo Credit: Britney Gill

 

BB411~ Which photographer inspires you and what do u love most about their work?

NA~ There are so many that are amazing but two that stand out are Rob Daly and Kharen Hill. Rob is an absolute genius! I think he creates pure magic. Every photo of his takes my breath away. All of his work is so original and creative. He really inspires me to start doing more passion projects and to step outside of the box. Kharen’s work also speaks for itself, it’s incredible and she’s one of the loveliest people I have ever met. Kharen was super helpful when I was first stepping into photography, I really admire her.

 

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BB411~ Is there someone you haven’t photographed that you would love to work with?

NA~ Shia Labeouf, I admire his outlook towards his art. I think a shoot with him would be incredible! I love how he bares his soul on film.

BB411~ Who did you look up to growing up or inspire to be?

NA~ Definitely My parents. They created this ‘get up and go’ mentality of mine. They were so young when they moved from Poland to Greece and then decided to come to Canada without ever previously visiting…Talk about spontaneous. I admire that a lot about them, and they did it all with smiles on their faces.

BB411~ How did your parents influence the person you are today? They are my hero’s. They’ll never understand how much I admire them for accomplishing so much at such a young age with two kids. They made me realize that anything is possible. I came from a very loving and supportive home and I hope I exude the love they have unconditionally provided me and each other with.

BB411~ Your sister Trish is your best friend, you share a very special bond. What do you love most about her?

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Photo Credit: Natalia Anja Instagram

NA~ I could go on forever about her amazing qualities. She truly has a selfless heart of gold, she gets that from my mom…they’re very similar. She’s the sweetest person I know that has the softest heart. She’s also a little bit of a weirdo like me, which makes for good laughs.

BB411~ Top 3 things every woman should have in her wardrobe?

NA~ Something she’s very comfortable in, something she feels sexy in and whatever makes her happy.

BB411~ Bare feet, socks, flip-flops or stilettos?

NA~ Stilettos, there’s something about heels that bring out confidence.

BB411~ Describe your style?

NA~ Confused. haha. My style varies from looking like a little boy going to play basketball or dressing up like a girly girl. It all depends on my mood.

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Photo Credit: Britney Gill

BB411~ What does the word “beauty” mean to you?

NA~  “Beauty” to me shines within a person and radiates with energy on the exterior. Everyone is beautiful and confidence and a kind soul exude that.

BB411~ What inspires you personally and professionally?

NA~ I feel most inspired when I’m alone with my thoughts in nature. I get inspired by good conversation, seeing people in my life working towards and achieving their goals and being a part of a community.

BB411~ What does it mean to you to give back?

NA~ I believe we’re all extremely fortunate. To me ‘giving back’ is providing a smile on someone’s face whether it be a small nice gesture, monetary contribution or physically helping someone. It means to be selfless. I think smiles are contagious and once they start spreading, the world becomes a happier place. I love the quote “Don’t give to get, give to inspire others to give’

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Photo Credit: Natalia Anja Instagram

 

BB411~ Are you involved with any charities that are close to your heart?

NA~ Project Solution Jamaica has become very close to my heart. It’s an organization my friend co-founded. I’m a HUGE fan of it. The breakfast program provides over 500 kids in Trelawny, Jamaica with a meal a day. Most of these kid’s families can’t afford to feed them so they don’t know when they will receive their next meal. This program allows them to receive at least one meal a day and 100% of the proceeds go directly to the breakfast program. I can’t wait till I get the opportunity to go to Jamaica to visit the kids and the school.

BB411~ What is your skin care regime?

NA~ I’m not too particular with my skin regime. I usually use The Body Shop Tea tree oil foam face wash and then Garnier moisturizer.

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Photo Credit: Natalia Anja Instagram

BB411~ What are your go to hair products?

NA~ Dry Shampoo and hair spray! ..and delicious smelling Coconut Conditioner.

BB411~ #1 beauty product you could not live without?

NA~ Toothpaste? Blistex chapstick.

BB411~ What are your thoughts on animal testing? Do you support companies that are cruelty free?

 

NA~ I love animals so I don’t agree with or support animal testing. It’s a topic I’m not very educated about but would like to be. I know some of my go-to products from The Body Shop are cruelty free which makes me more inclined to support their brand.

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Photo Credit: Natalia Anja’s Parents

BB411~ Do any certain scents remind you of your childhood?

NA~ The babydoll perfume, reminds me of my mom. Smells like grapefruit.

BB411~ What is your favorite fragrance?

NA~ I love Escada – Pacific Paradise, Hypnotic poison, lolita lampecka or the Vanilla Oil from the Body Shop. On men…Jean Paul Gautier get’s me every time.

BB411~ 3 words that best describe you?

NA~ Weird, smart ass, genuine

BB411~ If you could tell your younger self something you have learned and know now what would it be?

NA~ “Nothing is un realistic. Don’t be scared or too embarrassed to speak openly about your dreams and passions.”

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Photo Credit: Natalia Anja Instagram

 

BB411~ Describe your perfect day (when you have down time)?

NA~ Wake up early, grab a coffee, putting the phone away for the day, go on a hike and play the day by ear. Exploring places I’ve never been to and not be on a time constraint.

BB411~ Favorite quote?

NA~  “Wherever you go, there you are.”

BB411~ Favorite food?

NA~ Domino’s ham & pineapple pizzzza with banana peppers and franks hot sauce.

BB411~ Fun fact that people may not know about you?

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Photo Credit: Natalia Anja Instagram

NA~ My phobia, fear: I’m terrified of being in front of the camera. I get extremely awkward, my lips start to shake and I can’t be myself.

BB411~ What are the key points to being a good role model?

NA~ Being genuine, respectful and having a kind heart.

BB411~#1 thing you want to cross off your bucket list?

NA~ To take my family on an epic family vacation.

BB411~ What do you do to stay fit and healthy?

 

NA~  I’ve been slacking lately but I try my best to eat healthy, I love spinning, running, hiking, playing sports and anything active and outdoors.

BB411~ What advice would you give entrepreneurs starting out that are following their dreams?

NA~ If you’re extremely passionate about something and you’re willing to put all your time and effort into it you’ll do anything in your power to make it happen. You just need to set fear aside and do it!

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Photo Credit: Natalia Anja Instagram

BB411~ Where do you see yourself in 1 year, 5 years and 10 years?

NA~ I like to go with the flow. I have a lot of goals but my life is nothing like what I thought it would be even in the last year. In 1 year I hope to have seen all of Asia and have made an amazing photography book. Host my first Gallery event. I’ll have to see where my heart takes me in 5 and 10 years. I hope that in 5 years I would have achieved my Global Degree and have published work with National Geographic and have made 5 books.

BB411~ When I say the word #lovethis, what is the first thing that comes to mind?

NA~ Cheesy dad jokes & puns

BB411~ When you look back at the life you lived, what do u want to be remembered for?

NA~ I would hope that I have added an element of positivity in people’s lives, making them smile and feel good about themselves.

From the bottom of my heart I am so incredibly proud of this girl and can’t wait to follow this amazing journey she’s about to embark on.

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Photo Credit: Britney Gill

 

To keep up to date with Natalia: Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and make sure to check out her Site where she will be posting on her Global Degree Adventure.

Check out Global Degree on: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Website & their You Tube Channel.

You will be able to catch Season 2 on the Discovery Digital Network too!

And a Big SHOUT OUT to their sponsors Flight CentreHostel World, Monstercat & World Nomads for getting them there, keeping them safe and putting a roof over their heads.

Remember to say you heard it here first

Much Love,
Beauty Buzz 411